“Humans could face a reproductive crisis if action is not taken to tackle a drop in sperm count, researchers have warned after finding the rate of decline is accelerating.”
If you’re trying to make babies, this news is rather alarming, but the hard facts are that healthy sperm count has fallen by 50% in the past 40 years. We recently asked our audience,‘who in the relationship is in charge of your assisted fertility appointments?’ and 100% of responders answered ‘me, obviously’. With fertility issues rising, a semen analysis is essential when understanding the art of making a baby. It does take two to tango, after all.
Whether you are trying to make babies the old-fashioned heterosexual way, or you’re conceiving via donor or IVF, the health of sperm does matter. The good news is that loads can be done to improve sperm count & quality. Sperm health is the result of a man's overall health; therefore, improving nutrition and lifestyle can be very effective at improving sperm parameters and fertility. Calling all men. It’s time for a reproductive health education.
What affects male reproductive health?
Beyond testicular trauma, low sexual function and other unavoidable issues, sperm health is also affected by the environment and lifestyle choices. The good news here is that most exposure and its impact can be reversed simply by avoiding the things that can negatively influence male fertility. If you’re questioning sperm health in yourself or your partner, you’ll want to start thinking about avoiding:
Environmental factors that influence male fertility:
- Parabens, and even
- Pesticides in soil
As these have all been found to affect semen quality, sperm concentration, sperm count, function and ultimately male fertility.
Lifestyle factors that influence male fertility:
- Using illicit drugs
- Excessive psychological stress
- High oxidative stress
- Having high levels of body heat
- Being excessively overweight
What should a preconception diet for men look like?
There’s plenty men can do to positively influence their reproductive health. Research shows that a healthy, well balanced diet is associated with lower oxidative stress and better sperm quality. And our men need their sperm to be in tip top shape to ensure their fertility is optimal when it comes time to try to make a baby. For a quick nutritional guide, see our top tips below:
Just like women trying to conceive, men should aim for a varied and balanced diet based on vegetables and fruit, fish and seafood, nuts, seeds, whole-grain products, poultry, and low-fat dairy products. The Mediterranean Diet has long been considered a pro-fertility diet for both men and women due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. New research has also found a Mediterranean Diet to be associated with better quality sperm. Want to give it a go? Think lots of fish, olive oil, nuts, avocado, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Dietary changes in the lead up to pregnancy aren’t just advised for women. Men too should avoid a diet rich in processed red meat, fatty dairy, coffee, alcohol and sweet drinks, as these foods can affect the structure of spermatozoa.
Helping to prioritise male health
The Australian Family Physician Journal recommends a male fertility evaluation should occur alongside female fertility evaluations. But in reality, this is not performed in at least 18% of cases. “By not performing a complete evaluation of the male patient, one not only compromises the fertility prognosis of the couple, but also misses an opportunity to improve health outcomes in male patients” — Australian Family Physician Journal.
If the male factor is playing a role in your infertility story, it’s never too late to make some changes. Simple lifestyle modifications have the ability to override most negative impacts, whilst leaving a positive influence on the overall health of your partner or sperm provider. When it comes to fertility, it takes two to tango.
For more on male factor infertility, see ‘The Male Fertility Factor’